As a child, Doug stood on a Florida beach and watched an Apollo spacecraft climb the sky on its mission to the moon. He thrilled at the sight of the pillar of flames pushing the rocket upward, and the excitement of that time inspired Doug to pursue a career in technology. He studied chemical engineering in college, and he works as a professor and entrepreneur when he is not writing. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech.
Your books are part of a series. What’s the story about?
The Crystal series currently includes the books Crystal Deception and Crystal Conquest, the short prequel Crystal Horizon, and I am now writing Crystal Rebellion, due out in 2016. These are stories about people, and I enjoy futuristic settings, so that’s where my characters live.
On the surface, the cast sounds a bit like a comic book—there’s Sid the spy, Juice the scientist, Cheryl the military officer, and Criss the amazing AI (artificial intelligence) crystal. But I’ve worked hard to make the story hold together with a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and readers seem to enjoy the books, so that’s a rewarding outcome.
A broad arc for the story is the threatening activities of the Kardish, a space-faring race with Earth in the crosshairs. The aliens possess overwhelming force, yet Criss and his human partners confront them. I’ve worked to make the stories exciting, suspenseful, action-packed, and fun escapism. I leave it to readers to decide if I’ve succeeded.
You write futuristic thrillers. Often, elements of science fiction books of the past are a part of today’s reality. Do you see any elements of your novels becoming a part of tomorrow’s reality?
While my stories have fantastical elements, I believe most of the technological achievements they describe will come true in one form or another. In the not-too-distant future, we will have artificial intelligence, fast space ships, biomechanical androids, life-like projected image displays, energy weapons, cloaking devices, amazing communication systems, and colonies on the moon and Mars.
I think we move to an unknowable future when we contemplate elements like gravity on spacecraft, faster-than-light travel, or first contact by an alien spaceship. But these are fundamental components of today’s science fiction, and readers seem comfortable accepting these possibilities.
If you were to advertise your book series on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Aliens, spies, AI, romance, battles in space!
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I write my scenes in the order they will appear when published. The fun thing about this is that my books are written in a rotating point of view style and don’t always follow a straight timeline from chapter to chapter. So, I write a story that does not follow a strict timeline sequence, and that rotates among the viewpoints of the central characters, in page order.
And to really make it fun, I don’t allow myself to go back and change a previous scene to help me solve a challenge with the current one. To me, plot development is like solving a puzzle. I enjoy being at a particular point in an adventure, with characters deployed here and there, all with histories and in certain situations, and now I must move forward in a plausible and entertaining fashion.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I edit as I go. And as I write, I will look back and tweak pages here and there until I can read a whole scene without stopping. I can usually achieve this in five or so passes. And during this time, I edit for sentence structure, word selection, line breaks, showing not telling, replacing passive voice with active voice, continuity, and anything else that draws my attention at that time. Writing new lines for a story is equally slow. I can take a minute to write one sentence. And then five more messing with it.
But my key to success is persistence. I write every day for two or three hours. And slowly but surely, I write books. It took me a year each to write my two full length books—Deception and Conquest—in this manner. Both are 95K words. I expect a similar length and timeline for my work in progress, Crystal Rebellion.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
My characters surprise me pretty much every time I write, which is why I can’t plot ahead. The conversations are the wild card. I can describe a setting or have action take place and stay on track. But once the characters start talking, all bets are off.
In a verbal exchange, a character will reveal information I had planned on holding back, note something that becomes a flaw in my plot, or make a quip that takes the scene in an unexpected direction. I don’t fight it. I embrace it. Discovering what’s going on in a character’s mind is one of the thrills that keeps me writing.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I write my books in order, and that begins with the title, which, to me, sets the tone for the project. With that said, picking a title isn’t a complicated process. I choose a word to combine with Crystal that evokes in me a sense of huge possibilities and unknown mysteries. With my mind ready for the adventure, the story begins.
I reached the 20K word mark on my current project, Crystal Rebellion (doesn’t the word Rebellion conjure all manner of mysterious possibilities?), before I began speculating about the ending. I have some ideas I am excited about, so I know I will like how it turns out. But I won’t really know what happens until I write it. I’m excited to find out, and that makes me look forward to writing.
Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?
I was surprised—pleasantly so–the first time I received a review that discussed how the plot might have unfolded differently from the way I wrote it. Since then, I’ve received a number of reviews where the person has ideas about a character, a relationship, or a plot line that differs from how I wrote it.
It’s gratifying to know that a reader is invested enough in the story to think through details of how it might have evolved differently, and then to reduce those ideas to writing for the world to read. I feel rewarded knowing my stories have impacted readers at this emotional level.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
A book cover drives impulse purchases, and so good ones are vital to the success of a commercial project. For web-based sales, how well a cover scales to a thumbnail size is equally important. For my three covers, I worked with talented designers at Damonza.com. I sought a retro look—shadowy figures in futuristic settings—that reminded me of old science fiction. I’m not sure how they are doing as far as impulse sales goes, but I like them.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish I’d known how much I enjoyed writing stories. I would have started earlier!
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be
I live in Connecticut with my lovely wife, where we enjoy the four distinct seasons, the rolling hills, the lakes and forests, and the history of the region. So far in my journey through life I’ve lived for at least a year (in order) in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, California, Colorado, and Connecticut. My wife and I have discussed moving to the West Coast at some point. In fact, we are spending a week touring Oregon this summer to see if it might be a good fit for the future.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
That would be a toss-up between when my wife agreed to marry me, and the birth of my son a few years later.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
I’m a dreamer, so my answer would depend on the day you ask. Over the years I’ve dreamt of being able to play the piano and guitar; of being a world-class athlete; of having the temperament of a diplomat, the brilliance of philosopher, the courage of an astronaut, and the focus of a surgeon. At this writing, I would choose the skill of furniture making. It’s a wonderful art form, and as a bonus, it’s a hobby that yields a useable product. I’ve made a few items over the years, but I think I lack that calm and deliberate patience required to be good at it.
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